Exporting talent

Quebec is leading the new wave of contemporary circuses

In Quebec, watching a couple of guys in leotards, playing on swings, caked in makeup is normal. In fact, it’s big business. One of the province’s most famous exports is Cirque du Soleil, which contrary to what some might think, was not born in Las Vegas. Founded in 1984 by a couple of unknown street performers, it has transformed the big top experience from lowbrow entertainment to high art and put Quebec talent on display all over the world. With estimated annual revenues upward of $800 million, it has helped clowning to spawn an entire circus industry in Quebec, where you’ll find North America’s only diploma-granting circus school and companies specializing in niches like big top maintenance. It all makes Barnum & Bailey look like a subdued accounting firm.

Quebec’s religious legacy

Roman Catholicism is stronger in Quebec than any other province

Once referred to as the “Tibet of Catholicism,” for centuries Quebec was a rural, conservative province with a church at the heart of every village. By 1900, there was almost one church official per 100 people (a ratio that makes Starbucks embarrassed). The church’s influence has faded considerably since then, following the Quiet Revolution that secularized the province in the sixties, but it’s still part and parcel of the culture. The province’s spiritual roots are evident in its attitude toward money—most Quebecers believe wealth should be redistributed to those in need, not controlled by the one percent. Mark Twain once remarked that you couldn’t throw a brick in Montreal without breaking a church window, and that’s still the case—it’s just that these days, many of those windows belong to condos in converted churches. And Quebecers continue to invoke the language of the church every day—through the colorful, religion-derived swear words that are an integral part of the local French vernacular. Shout about tabernacles, chalices, ciboriums or hosts, and risk a good old-fashioned Quebec beating … which is really like a regular beating, but most likely in front of a church.

A multi-million dollar business

In Quebec, comedy gets big laughs—and big bucks

French-language comedy might get lost in translation, but there’s no mistaking the fact that the humour business is no joke in Quebec. The province is home to the world’s biggest comedy festival, Just For Laughs. Few outside the province may have seen hockey comedy Les Boys or its sequels, but that hasn’t stopped it becoming one of the highest-grossing film franchises in Canadian history, even if it knocks some Chiclets out of good taste. And Quebec has more than its share of comedy superstars too. While the likes of Martin Matte and his fellow French-speaking funnymen couldn’t get arrested in the anglophone world, they’re household names in their home province—and laughing all the way to the bank.

A homegrown star system

Quebec has a veritable constellation of francophone stars who have never crossed over

Given her media (over)exposure, you could be forgiven for thinking Céline Dion was the only star Quebec has ever produced. In reality, the province has many native stars, whose projects and personal lives receive so much coverage on talk shows and gossip rags that they’re practically like family. Take the ubiquitous Véronique Cloutier, or “Véro” as she is familiarly known: having started out as a VJ, she’s now a one-woman media empire, Quebec’s answer to Oprah, with radio and TV shows and her own magazine. Marina Orsini, Richard Séguin, Robert Charlebois, Paul Piché, Mitsou Gélinas… the list of household names unknown to the rest of Canada goes on and on. On the other hand, your average Quebecer thinks George Stroumboulopoulos is the name of a Greek restaurant and Jian Ghomeshi a type of curry, so what goes around comes around.
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MO+PR Communications and marketing agency located in Montreal Quebec. We anchor your message in the local French culture, making it relevant and useful to your audience.


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